With a history dating back to more than 3,000 years, Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest living cities. Located in North India on the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi has been an important center of learning for ages as well as a chief pilgrimage destination for many Hindus. Varanasi is regarded as a sacred city among Hindus, Jains and Buddhists because it is believed that dying here releases a person’s soul from the cycle of reincarnation, and that bathing in the River Ganges cleanses one’s sins.
Varanasi offers sights and experiences unknown anywhere else in the world. It is nicknamed the “City of Temples” because of its thousands of temples. Some of the most significant are the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva, the Durga Temple and the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, which is known for housing numerous monkeys.
Probably the most famous sites of the city are the ghats, the series of embankment steps leading down to the Ganges River, where many people gather to bathe. The oldest and main ghat is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The Manikarnika Ghat is a burning ghat where Hindu cremations and rituals of death anniversaries are frequently held. Yoga, shaves and massages are other activities available here. The best way to see the ghats is by taking a morning boat ride at sunrise.
Silk weaving is popular in Varanasi, and there are scores of shops and markets selling silk products like sarees and scarves in addition to other handicrafts. The city is also home to a good variety of cafes, restaurants and bakeries.
Rickshaws and walking are the main ways of getting around Varanasi.